If you’ve been running for any length of time, you most likely know that there are many different forms of running. You can go road running, trail running, run on a track, do short or longer races like a marathon or half-marathon running, or even ultra-running if endurance is your thing.
If you live in an area that gets proper snow in the winter, you may think that your running needs to take a break. But have you considered learning how to start snowshoe running?
Yes, it’s a thing! Technically, the mechanism is the same as running on the road or trail. But snowshoe running is a little more challenging because you’ve got more resistance and you’re engaging your muscles a bit differently.
Here’s all you need to know about this fun winter sport!
What is Snowshoe Running?
Snowshoeing (snowshoe running) is a winter sport. It’s actually a professional sport and is governed by the World Snowshoe Federation.
If you’ve ever been snowshoeing recreationally, you have a good idea of what snowshoe running is about. It’s pretty similar, just faster; like the difference between walking normally and running when it isn’t snowing.
Snowshoe running is done with smaller snowshoes, and when you do it in a controlled setting, it’s usually on packed or groomed snow that’s easier to run on. If you want to just do it yourself, it may take a lot of getting used to if you’re running in areas where the snow hasn’t been groomed.
Interestingly, snowshoe running is an official sport at the Special Olympics and the Arctic Winter Games!
How to Get Started
Snowshoe running is fun and interesting, but you may not know how to begin. Here are some tips to help you get off to the best start!
Get a Feel for the Sport
Get used to the feel of snowshoeing before you invest in your own snowshoes. It’s a good idea to rent some snowshoes or borrow from a friend before buying your own so you can get the feel of them first.
Snowshoes are like normal shoes. There are different models, and each will feel slightly different on your feet. It’s best to try a few different models to find what feels most comfortable on your feet.
If you’re borrowing from a friend, it will help you get used to the feeling of running with snowshoes on. But it’s still advisable to try at least one other pair so you can compare the feeling of the two and see what works better for you before you buy your own.
Leave Your Snowshoes Outside
When you’ve bought your own pair of snowshoes, it’s tempting to treat them like normal running shoes and keep them safe inside the house.
But although it may seem illogical to leave your equipment out in the snow, it’s best to leave your snowshoes outside. There’s a good reason for this, though!
If you keep your snowshoes inside, the metal will warm up slightly. When you get outside, snow sticks to the warm metal, which makes your snowshoeing experience more difficult.
If you leave your snowshoes outside, the metal stays the same temperature as the air outside. The snow won’t stick to it, and you’ll have an easier experience.
Learn on an Open, Flat Piece of Ground
Snowshoeing is just like running. It’s best to learn on a piece of ground that’s flat and easy for beginners. If there’s a golf course or ball field near you, that would be perfect for a beginner snowshoer to practice.
Once you’ve gotten used to the motion and the muscle activation of snowshoeing, you can start to practice on more challenging terrain. Remember, you don’t want to hurt yourself when you’re still learning! Rather start easy.
Don’t Forget to Warm Up
Just because you’ve got snowshoes on your feet, doesn’t mean you don’t need to warm up like you would when going for a normal run! Do a slower lap to get your muscles warm, while concentrating on maintaining good form and breathing properly.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that because you’re physically fit and an adept runner, snowshoeing will be easy. It requires a different kind of effort to normal running, and even the fittest runners are likely to need some time to get used to running in the snow.
Neglecting your warm-up can lead to injury, just like on the road!
Practice Good Form
Make sure you’re still keeping good form when you’ve got snowshoes on your feet. Keep good posture, and make sure you’re wearing the right shoes for your feet.
It’s also a good idea to understand how different types of snow are different to run in/on. Packed snow that’s somewhat icy will be fast, while fresh powder will be noticeably slower.
Don’t judge your effort by your pace. Concentrate on form, muscle activation, and breathing. You should be able to feel that you’re getting a good workout if you focus on these things.
Take an Extra Set of Clothes
Snowshoeing can be a messy and wet experience! It’s always advisable to take a set of warm, dry clothing with you if you aren’t heading straight back home after your snowshoeing.
What is the Difference in Running Form?
You still need to pay attention to your form when doing snowshoe running, but it’s slightly different from your regular running form.
Snowshoes are heavier than regular running shoes, so you’ll most likely need to compensate for that in your stride. You may find yourself lifting your knees higher and swinging your arms more and wider.
To keep your balance on rugged, unstable, and possibly slippery snowy terrain, you’ll engage your core more without even realizing it.
Why is it a Lot Harder than Regular Running?
When you run on the road, or even on a trail, there’s little resistance. You’re working against air, possibly wind, and the resistance the road or ground puts out against your feet, which isn’t that much.
But when you’re running on or through snow, the resistance is significantly more. You’ll need to exert more strength to push against the snow, which means your heart rate increases to get more blood to muscles so you can do the work.
You’ll also most likely feel sore and stiff after snowshoeing in different places and much more noticeably than after going for a regular run!
What Should I Practice When Snowshoe Running?
If you’re serious about snowshoeing as a form of running, you’ll have to put some practice into it in order to improve your form and your performance.
Put particular effort into:
- Running up and down hills
- Dealing with flat, packed snow
- Learning to run efficiently through fresh powder
- Running on rougher terrain
- Dealing with curves in the terrain
To make the most of your snowshoe running, here are some tips about gearing up properly!
Know Your Snowshoes
Like regular running shoes, not all snowshoes are created equal. Some are made for hiking snowy terrain, others are made to be effective in powder. Certain snowshoes are made for running or racing.
Learn the difference and decide which is best for you and your needs. As mentioned above, it could be a great idea to try out a bunch of different ones before settling on the type that best suits you.
Use Waterproof Trail Shoes
Of course, you’ll still need to wear a pair of normal shoes when snowshoeing. Try to wear a pair of waterproof trail shoes, if possible. That will prevent your feet from getting wet and cold, which can ruin your experience!
If you only have traditional mesh running shoes, you can cover the mesh with duct tape to prevent snow, water, and sneaky breezes from getting in and freezing your toes.
Use a Gaiter
Although a neck gaiter is probably also a good idea, here we’re talking about leg gaiters. Powering your way through snow can kick up a lot of powder, which settles on you and can melt and make you quite wet.
Wind-resistant, water-resistant gear is a good idea as an outer layer. It helps the snow to slide off quickly without melting and soaking through.
Dress the Right Way
Apart from wearing a gaiter to keep your face and neck from becoming soaked, a pair of warm tights and winter socks are essential. Thermal tights will keep your lower half warm, and we recommend Merino wool socks, as they’re thermoregulating.
Don’t forget that although you’re in the snow, you’ll need sunscreen too! UV rays can reflect off the snow and cause bad sunburn. Don’t neglect this! Wearing sunglasses can be a good idea too, to prevent snow blindness.
Lastly, a hat and gloves will round out your protective gear and keep you as warm as possible.
Gear Suggestions to Get Started
Best Overall Snowshoe
1. TSL Symbioz Hyperflex Elite
If you’ve discovered a love for snowshoeing, we can recommend the TSL Symbioz Hyperflex Elite. It’s a high-quality snowshoe, but if you’re planning on being out on the snow often, you won’t find a more reliable shoe to get you through it.
As its name suggests, the Symbioz is light and super flexible, which increases the power of each step and offers an energy return similar to the best running shoes. This natural flexibility (created by carbon reinforcements) works with you to reduce effort with each step, so you won’t fatigue as quickly.
The snowshoe also features an easy lock adjustment system to keep your shoe size set for future use.! An easy-to-use side adjustment system will work with shoes of any width. Quick and easy tightening is enabled by the use of a ratcheting system.
Eight stainless steel crampons offer impressive grip on both up and downhill slopes. The flexibility of the frame allows the snowshoe to almost mold to the shape of the ground, so between these two features, you’ll be very stable on your feet.
Another slick feature on these snowshoes is their Easy Ascent Heel Lift. A steel frame under the heel can be activated easily with a push of a pole, to give you more of a forward lean while going up steep slopes.
They’re available in small, medium, and large, so there’s a snowshoe for everyone in this range!
- Easy lock adjustment to your size
- Carbon reinforcements for strength
- 8 interchangeable stainless steel crampons
- Easy Ascent heel lift
- May not be suitable for users heavier than 150lb
Top Value Snowshoes
2. MSR Evo Trail Snowshoes
If you want your own pair of snowshoes but you want a bit more experience before investing in the top-of-the-range, fancy technological ones, we recommend these.
They serve their purpose very well, despite not being as technologically in-depth as our best overall pair.
Easily adjustable, freeze-proof DuoFit bindings make it simple to fit the snowshoe to your foot. An adjustable behind-the-foot buckle means feet of just about any size can fit into it.
Two steel traction rails project from the body of the snowshoe, giving you a good grip in any conditions. The body itself features break bars underneath for more control over your own movement.
The modular tail of the snowshoe allows for easy movement, and if you want even more control (especially in powder) you can purchase 6-inch add-on tails.
Users of up to 180lbs can use these comfortably. They may feel slightly heavy on the feet, though, with a weight of 3lbs 7oz.
- Freeze-proof DuoFit bindings
- Modular tails for maneuverability
- Can accommodate users up to 180lbs
- Traction rails for increased grip
- Slightly heavy, at 3lbs 7oz.
Best Snowshoe for Technical Terrain
3. Atlas Montane Snowshoes
If you’ve learned the basics of snowshoeing and you’re ready to move up to more technical terrain, this is the snowshoe you want on your feet.
They’re designed specifically for navigating rugged and tough landscapes. At first glance, they look slightly different from others, with an Aluminum Reactiv elliptical frame around the outside and flexible Nytex decking within it.
The reason behind this shape is to bear heavier loads when the terrain gets a little tricky and you’re not just standing straight upright in your snowshoes!
A unique Atlas feature is their Spring-Loaded Suspension (SLS) system. This keeps the deck suspended underneath the foot, instead of the foot resting directly on the deck. This allows some freedom of foot movement, as well as impact-absorbing properties.
The Wrapp Swift binding is comfortable and easy to use. The straps are easy-tighten and quick-release and padded for extra comfort.
Serrated traction bars keep you sure-footed. A unique All-Trac toe crampon gives the user better grip and makes it easier to maneuver no matter the terrain underfoot.
- Aluminum Reactiv frame for strength
- Padded Wrapp Swift binding
- All-Trac toe crampon for better movement
- Spring-Loaded Suspension system for shock absorption
- May not be suitable for beginners who are less technical and on a budget
4. Black Diamond Apex Gaiter
These leg gaiters are hardcore and will keep your lower legs warm in any weather! We highly recommend getting a pair of these, no matter whether you’re a beginner or a more advanced snowshoer.
They’re crafted in a three-layer design, made from waterproof Gore-Tex material to keep you as dry as possible in all conditions.
A Velcro side-closure and buckle top closure make it easy to get on and off. An instep strap and instep-adjustment buckle get the fit right and keep the gaiter in place.
To protect the gaiter from being damaged by crampons and wayward tree branches, a double-layered abrasion guard has been fitted.
- 3x layered GORE-TEX shell
- Buckle closure with wide-release feature
- Easy-reach instep-adjustment buckle
- Welded abrasion guard
- They run small
Best Snowshoe Jacket
5. Salomon RS SOFTSHELL JACKET
Salomon is known for their hardcore shoes, but they make superb apparel too. This jacket is one of their offerings, and it’s what we suggest getting if you’re planning on spending any length of time in the snow.
It’s made of three layers (fabric, membrane, backing layer) of AdvancedSkin technical fabric, which is treated with a durable water-repellent coating to keep you safe, warm, and comfy in all temperatures.
The jacket is close-fitting but allows enough space to move comfortably. A top-to-hem zipper makes it easy to get on and off, also allowing easy ventilation if you start to get a little too warm.
Extra features that we like include reflective details for added safety, an elastic hem to prevent it from riding up, two zippered side pockets, and a handy press button to keep your jacket from flying open when it’s unzipped.
- 3-layer fabric shell
- Temperature regulating
- AdvancedSkin technical fabric shield
- Smart Vent for breathability
- May be uncomfortable for those who don’t enjoy a tight fit